We’re all aware of Sony’s remake of the popular science fiction movie Total Recall, but have you heard about the new sci-fi flick Looper? If you weren’t paying attention to it before the San Diego Comic-Con, then you should now.
If you don’t know who Rian Johnson is, then you better start doing your research: he’s one of the best directors to come out of the independent scene within the past decade. He’s conquered the film noir genre with Brick, and had a sweet but dramatic adventure in The Brothers Bloom. Now he’s dipping his feet into science fiction with Looper, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as “looper” (a hitman hired by the mob of the future to assassinate targets who are sent into the past) who is tasked with killing a middle aged version of himself (Bruce Willis).
We had the opportunity to talk with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, co-star Emily Blunt, and Rian Johnson about the upcoming movie along with the challenges that come with making a convoluted, time-traveling modern science fiction film.
Joseph, what was the most difficult part about playing Bruce Willis? Did anything surprise you in the process of portraying him?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The voice. I find that the voice is what I look for first and foremost with just about any character, but I don’t have an answer to that. And Bruce was really accommodating, open and collaborative with helping me do that. He recorded himself doing some of my voice over lines so I could figure it out. And mostly it was just hanging out with him. Getting to know him was the most useful in getting a sense of how he is.
Were there any surprises?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: No, I know everything. [laughs]
Are any of you science nerds, and did you have any difficulty wrapping your brain around the concepts of this film?
Emily Blunt: I’m definitely not science nerdy. It’s not my forté. [laughs] But I read about thirteen pages of the script and I was already going to my agent. I was like ‘Get me into this movie!’ because I loved it so much. I read through it a few times so I had a fairly intelligent idea of it conceptually.
Emily, what exactly drew you to this role? What’s the attraction of playing a more mysterious character like this one in Looper?
Emily Blunt: To be honest I think you… it’s the same for a lot of actresses. You look for the female roles that aren’t objectified, that aren’t simplified. And this character had such a singular voice. This character had such a singular voice and she had a really rich past in which we delve into. She’s a really tough cookie. Tough nut to crack. And I enjoy the nuances and the complexity of that part. It was a challenge to me and I do look for that. I try to mix it up as much as possible. I’m really looking for roles that have me ask the question ‘Oh my God how am I going to do this?’ That’s what I aspire to do every time I take on a new role.
Rian, did you always have Joseph Gordon-Levitt in mind for the main character?
Rian Johnson: I wrote the part for Joseph. I wrote the script for Joe in mind. We both stayed friends ever since we made Brick and we’ve both been dying to make another film again. Thank God he said yes.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: And also it’s worth adding that’s a real honor and that’s never happened for me before. That someone wrote something for me is really exciting, especially coming from him.
If you could go back to the past and change one simple event…
Emily Blunt: I’m passing it to Joe.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: No, the answer is no. I would not want to erase anything.
Emily Blunt: I would agree with him. It’s very hard to pinpoint something because then it would have a ripple effect to everything else. Things happen in the way they should.
Joseph, it seems you’re into the action phase of your career. Was action always a genre that’s appealed to you and is it overwhelming to do so many in a row?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well, there’s 50/50 [a drama in which Gordon-Levitt portrays a twentysomething man diagnosed with cancer],that has some pretty thrilling action sequences as well. [laughs] But no, I have a pretty eclectic taste in the movies I like to watch and also in the movies I’m inspired to work on. I don’t think action for action’s sake is so fun but when it helps tell the story I love doing a good fight scene. Some of my favorite fight scenes I’ve ever done are in Brick with no money, no “scale,” but we just cleverly went through and executed it by Rian. It’s also worth noting that Steve Yedlin, the guy who shot Brick as well as Looper. So yeah, we had a great time doing the action on Looper and I think they’re really fun to watch.
If we could get rid of the bad people in the world would that be a good alternative way to do it? Talk about your own inception of that. Is there a good idea?
Rian Johnson: Well yeah, you’re right. It does. I think that’s part of the thing about the pressure of science fiction and time-travel movies. It always seemed to ask these big moral questions. They’re just very good at making you confront questions like that. I guess my answer to that would be the movie itself. I can’t articulate better to some of those than I did in the movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I guess one answer I could give is I think violence begits violence. I don’t think it solves any sort of conflict with violence because nothing ever ends up solved that way.
Rian Johnson: That’s a big part of the movie, the notion of this thing you see in action movies but that you unfortunately also in real life. The notion to solve a problem by finding the right person and killing them. The very tale of the movie Looper, the notion that that kind of thinking creates a self perpetual igloo and what can we do to break that? These are some of the things that we hopefully wrestled with a little bit in the movie.
Emily, not only does does this movie deal with particular moral themes, but so does your other sci-fi film, The Adjustment Bureau. Did you take any experience from that film and apply to this one?
Emily Blunt: I feel like The Adjustment Bureau was a very different movie and a very different experience. I wouldn’t say I necessarily drew from that and brought it to this. The characters were vastly different and the places. So I would say no but I do feel that even though I didn’t grow up being a a big sci-fi fan, a comic book or a superhero fan, I felt myself definitely gravitating towards these movies and how they have the high concept and giving you a moral dilemma in doing that. It’s really interesting to see real people dealing with that in a high concept.
Rian Johnson: [to Gordon-Levitt] Working with you in this and in Brick was just how in some ways, and this is just how I noticed your work, you talked about approaching the character first kind of looking at some of the exterior for Brick. Finding that voice and finding the costume, the jacket, the posture kind of hunched over. With Looper it’s different with putting the face on.
Joseph, that were the differences between working with Rian on Brick and on Looper?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well I think everything was just easier and I think… he had quite a confident hand directing Brick. I’ve seen a lot of the shorts that he made preceding Brick. I think after Brick and after The Brothers Bloom and now doing Looper, I was working with a seasoned filmmaker that I’m an enormous fan of his and I think that this movie is the one on which he had the lightest touch. I mean that in a… It wasn’t to say that he wasn’t involved or aloof, I think he didn’t… it’s like judo. You can like… if you know which way the current’s going you can use it to your advantage.
That may be obscure but it’s sort of like, this might be a weird comparison. Jackie Brown to me is Quentin Tarantino’s movie in which he has the lightest touch and I love Jackie Brown. I also love Kill Bill where it’s like saturated with Tarantino-ness. But there’s just a difference there and I think Looper, you can definitely tell it’s a Rian Johnson movie just like you can tell Jackie Brown is a Quentin Tarantino movie. It feels like he knew how to really let it all blossom as it does.
Rian Johnson: I’m blushing. [laughs]
Looper will be out in theaters on September 28th.
Will you be seeing Looper?